The One about Allan King’s “Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company”

I have to admit that “Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company” was a difficult actuality film to watch. As impressed as I am with Allan King’s “Cinéma vérité”, this one hits my family pretty hard as my grandfather is now at the final stage of Alzheimer’s Disease and is not expected to live much longer, while my mother-in-law also has Alzheimer’s.

For me, I have seen many films and TV shows on cable about Alzheimer’s Disease and it’s something we hear about but not many people really know too much about until its hits their own family. For me, I know how things are but I don’t know at what extent the memory loss can be. So, part of the reason for me wanting to watch this film was to know firsthand how memory loss has affected various individuals.

Before I go on, with my review, it’s important to note that there is one spoiler I need to bring up. So, if you do not want to read any spoilers, please do not read any further.

Possibly the biggest surprise for me after watching “Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company” was to see the character of Claire. She was no different from a grandmother or older parent and sure, it’s one thing to be forgetful but while watching, you never got the sense that anything was wrong with her memory. That was until Max passed away. She was told of his death but forgot it the next day. She was at the memorial for Max but everyday she was reliving the bad news with no memory that she mourned the day before.

I was so shocked because you feel sorry for her that she has found someone to love (again) and he dies. And she relives it day-by-day not remembering that she was at the memorial, not remembering that she was told. The hospital staff remind her that she has been told but she would answer “no, I would have remembered something this big.” But the fact is, she didn’t remember it at all.

Possibly the scene that made me cry was hearing Fay Silverman and how lonely she was. I can’t image now, if you lived with family and then put at a hospital, no friends and you just feel depressed because no one is visiting you. It’s absolutely heartbreaking but the fact is, for many elderly…many children do not visit their parents at the senior home many times a year. And you can hear the anguish in her voice…but also others, who feel like they are better of dead than living at a hospital where life is no longer fun, happy or vibrant. Life is now mundane, repetitive and depressing. Ida talked about how she enjoyed being an assistant to a doctor and being around people. Helping people. Her husband helped people. But now, she’s not happy anymore.

Also, to hear from Helen Mosten-Growe’s daughter talked about the violence and abuse her mother gave when she had Alzheimer’s Disease. I have only heard of this once before and that was with actress Rita Hayworth who died of Alzheimer’s Disease at the young age of 68 and her daughter Yasmin Aga Khan (the president of Alzheimer Disease International) was interviewed about how her mother who became forgetful and also became violent but back then, there was no name for the problems that she was going through. But now we know it’s a symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Speaking of Helen, there was a scene where Faye was in joy and happiness about her son visiting her but then we see Helen countering with the rudest, hateful comments. And I doubt that she understands what she is saying. But the more I have researched Alzheimer’s Disease, the more I realize that anger is a normal phase with the sickness. But it’s interesting how not everyone has the anger symptom but it does happen. Everyone has a different behavior. Some are calm, some are depressed, some are tearful, some are angry but it’s all part of the normal phase of Alzheimer’s.

“Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company” was a very good actuality film by Allan King. If anything, watching this film was more therapeutic for me and my wife (note: I watched it in its full entirety but for my wife, hearing those suffering from memory loss and seeing the families discussing their parents was too much for her to take in). Although, I watched this film objectively and it was an eye-opener, I know Alzheimer’s Disease is such a difficult topic for many families but I do recommend watching this film.

“Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company” was well-shot and once again, the camera and King’s presence was not obstructive because even the people sitting down rarely look at the camera. It’s like he was not even there. So, it really captured the raw emotions of everyone that was being filmed. You are seeing the truth in reality and it’s one thing that Allan King excels at.

Overall, if you have a love one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia or severe memory loss, I highly recommend watching “Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company”.